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India-China To Hold 15th Round Of Military Talks On Border Stand-off On March 11

Pullback from PP 15 friction point at Hot Springs on the table as New Delhi strikes optimistic note on incremental troop disengagement

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India and China will hold the 15th round of military talks at the Corps Commander level on March 11 to attempt troop disengagement from the remaining friction points on the Line of Actual control in Eastern Ladakh through dialogue.  

Sources in the Defence Establishment in New Delhi announced that the talks will be held on the Indian side of Chushul Moldo Meeting Point to seek détente at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in the Hot Springs area of Demchok as part of incremental efforts to end the 22-month-long standoff which has been the most serious military confrontation between the Asian giants in over five decades.  

“The Indian effort at the military talks is to seek “correction at Patrolling Point (PP) 15 (Hot Springs) and then go on to other issues,” Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane had stated on January 12.  

The 14th round of talks between India’s 14 Corps Commander Lt General Anindya Sengupta and his Chinese counterpart Major General Yang Lin on January 12 did not achieve a breakthrough but scored on cordiality, with both sides agreeing to continue the dialogue and making courteous references to peaceful intent.   

“14 rounds of talks till now have resulted in resolution of North & South Bank of Pangong Tso, Galwan and Gogra Hot Spring areas. Both sides will now focus to achieve resolution of balance friction areas. Recent statements by both sides to find a mutually acceptable solution have been encouraging and positive in nature,” sources in New Delhi added optimistically ahead of the 15th round of talks.  

At a press conference in New Delhi on January 12 ahead of Army Day, General MM Naravane, while favouring dialogue with China, had said it is unreasonable to expect every round of talks to have an outcome. 

Illustrating his position that resolution of the stand-off through dialogue was incremental and work-in-progress, General Naravane point out that the face-off at Patrolling Point 14 (PP 14) was resolved in the 4th and 5th rounds of talks, the North and South Bank of Pangong Tso and the Kailash Range were resolved in the 9th and 10th round, and PP 17 in the 12th round. 

While taking a pragmatic position with his “We have to be prepared to stay there for as long as it takes” remark, the Army Chief listed out a step-by-step approach to resolve the face-off: First, disengagement has to take place along the remaining friction points, then consider de-escalation in moving back to areas in depth, and once confidence is built up, then de-induct. 

On whether the ongoing confrontation would result in permanent heavy deployment of troops in Eastern Ladakh on the lines of the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, General Naravane said it remains to be seen whether the Chinese permanently garrison on the LAC or be amenable to de-induction. 

General Naravane, while maintaining that India wants to resolve the 20-month-old military face-off peacefully through dialogue, vowed that India would emerge victorious if war is thrust on it. He also gave an assurance that India was evenly matched both in troop and infrastructure build-up. 

After the distinct chill in some earlier rounds, which did not even yield a joint statement, the cordiality of the last (14th ) round has created fresh grounds for optimism.  

“The two sides also agreed to consolidate on the previous outcomes and take effective efforts to maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector including during winter. The two sides agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue via military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest. In this context it was also agreed that the next round of the Commanders’ talks should be held at the earliest,” the joint press release at the end of the 14th round had stated. The winter months have remained largely incident free.  

It was “agreed that both sides should follow the guidance provided by the State Leaders and work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest. It was noted that this would help in restoration of peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector and enable progress in bilateral relations,” the press release added.